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Strength of perceptual experience predicts word processing performance better than concreteness or imageability

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2012
JournalCognition
Journal number3
Volume125
Number of pages14
Pages452-465
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A concepts are traditionally thought to differ from concrete concepts by their lack of perceptual information, which causes them to be processed more slowly and less accurately than perceptually-based concrete concepts. In two studies, we examined this assumption by comparing concreteness and imageability ratings to a set of perceptual strength norms in five separate modalities: sound. taste, touch, smell and vision. Results showed that concreteness and imageability do not reflect the perceptual basis of concepts: concreteness ratings appear to be based on two different intersecting decision criteria, while imageability ratings are visually biased. Analysis of lexical decision and word naming performance showed that maximum perceptual strength (i.e., strength in the dominant perceptual modality) consistently outperformed both concreteness and imageability ratings in accounting for variance in response latency and accuracy. We conclude that so-called concreteness effects in word processing emerge from the perceptual strength of a concept's representation and discuss the implications for theories of conceptual representation. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.